Is The Kindle Still The King?

Changes In The Ebook Reader Market

Amazon's Kindle reader has been the dominant force in the ebook reader market for quite some time now. It's been the best selling product on the Amazon website for over two years and sells in huge numbers over the festive season. It's also becoming a popular choice at other gifting holidays, such as Father's Day and Mother's Day, helped by the fact that the price has fallen quite a bit.

For a while, it was starting to look as if the ebook reader market had turned into a straight Kindle vs Nook fight - with the Nook in a rather distant second place. However, events of the last few weeks have cast a different light on things and it looks like there could be interesting times ahead in the ebook reader market.

The New Barnes And Noble Nook ReaderNook Reader
The first major change came when Barnes and Noble upgraded the Nook reader. The new version  comes with a slot for an SD memory card, which allows the memory to be increased up to 32GB. That's enough for somewhere in the region of 28,000 books. That should keep you going for a while.

The new Nook also comes with a touch screen e-ink technology display. A lot of people will find that easier and more intuitive to use. It also has the advantage that it makes the QWERTY keypad, as used in the Kindle 3, redundant. This means that the Nook can be made smaller and lighter. In fact, the upgraded Nook is about an inch shorter and an ounce lighter than the Kindle 3. That will appeal to many potential customers.

The new Nook comes in Wi-Fi only mode and sells for $ 139, the same as the Kindle 3 Wi-Fi only model. It may not be a Kindle killer, but it's certainly a step in the right direction for Barnes and Noble and should help them to close the gap on the Kindle.

The iRiver Story HD Reader
iRiver Story HD ReaderThe second important event in the ebook reader market came less than a fortnight after the launch of the new Nook reader. iRiver released their Story HD reader, which is the result of a partnership between iRiver and Google. 

The Story HD, a little surprisingly perhaps, opts for a keypad instead of the touch screen seen on the Nook. However, it does feature the first ever XGA e-ink technology display to be seen on the market. This has a resolution of 1024 x 768 pixels in comparison with the 800 x 600 of both the Kindle and the Nook. That represents 63% more pixels - so definition should be higher, which may be useful for ebooks which have detailed illustrations.

Like the Nook, the Story HD has an SD memory card slot to allow expansion up to 32GB.

However, the real selling point of the Story is the fact that it is the first ebook reader to be fully integrated with the Google eBookstore. Story owners will be able to browse the huge selection of books on Google and then download their choices direct to their reader via Wi-Fi.

That could be an important factor as, based upon the success of the Kindle and the Nook, it appears that a strong link to books can really help to boost reader sales. In addition to boosting sales of the Story HD, the iRiver partnership with Google should also help to make Google's eBookstore more accessible and visible to the public. It could turn out to be beneficial for both parties - and it could make the ebook reader market much less of a two horse race.

The Story HD reader is priced at $139.99 and comes in a Wi-Fi only version.

Is It Time For The Launch Of The Kindle 4?
Neither the new Nook or the Story HD is a Kindle killer.  The Kindle has options - such as 3G, a reduced price "Special Offers" version - which the others do not. Amazon also has its strong association with books and reading to fall back on and is constantly releasing seemingly small updates - such as "real" page numbers for example - which seem to please Kindle owners no end.

However, considering that the two new readers launched within just a fortnight of each other, and that they both bring new options for potential customers, it does look as if there will be some change in the ebook reader market in the near future. Amazon will probably remain as market leader, but market share may now be split three ways.

It's also fair to say that, despite the fact that it's just a year old, the Kindle 3 may just be starting to show its age, especially when compared with two new and younger arrivals. A year is a long time in the world of personal electronic devices after all. All things considered, it might be time for Amazon to think about a launch date for the Kindle 4.

When Will Amazon Release the Kindle 4?
Previous Kindle release dates are shown below:

  • Original Kindle November 2007
  • Kindle 2.0February 2009
  • Kindle 3August 2010

Based on those dates, you might expect the Kindle 4 to launch sometime between November 2011 and February 2012. However, it would seem more likely that Amazon would be looking at a release before Christmas.

It's always a big sales spike for the Kindle and a pre-Christmas launch would boost sales even further. On the other hand, if customers got it into their heads that there would be a new Kindle appearing early in 2012, they might hang back from buying a Kindle over the festive period. Poor old dad might wind up getting a pair of socks instead and Amazon's sales, at their most profitable time of the year, could be negatively impacted.

So, in all probability, we can look forward to a Kindle 4 launch well before Christmas.

What New Features Will The Kindle Have?
The Story HD has set the new standard in terms of resolution. The Kindle 4 will probably have an XGA e-ink display with a resolution of 1024 x 768. It will also have touch screen functionality and the QWERTY keypad will disappear.

The Kindle 4 will probably not have a color display - and it won't suffer too badly from this. Most people read books which have black text printed on white paper, it's not a great big deal.

Amazon would like to access people who mostly read magazines and newspapers, and that sector of the market would very definitely benefit from a color screen. However, people who read newspapers and magazines tend not to read for quite as long as those who read novels - so an e-ink technology display may not be so important. Amazon may well elect to serve this market sector via the Amazon tablet computer - which is also expected to launch before the end of the year.

The Kindle 4 will probably not have a slot for an SD memory card. It's not really necessary, not with enough memory for 3,500 books onboard, and would simply serve to increase the price of the reader.

Amazon may also change the type of book formats supported for the Kindle - but probably not at the launch of the Kindle 4.

Predictions For The Kindle 4

  • Launch date before Christmas 2011.
  • An XGA e-ink technology display with 1024 x 768 resolution.
  • Touch screen controls.
  • No memory card slot.
  • Will continue to support Kindle books and PDF files.
  • The Kindle will continue to be the market leading ebook reader for the foreseeable future.

Nook vs Kindle

Nook vs Kindle